Yesterday, I ran in the Erie Runners' Club Turkey Trot 5K. This was either my 4th or 5th time running this race and it's become an annual tradition, as much a part of my Thanksgiving holiday as turkey dinner. I'm not fleet-footed, as my race times bear out but I enjoy being outdoors and the physical challenge. And as I tell my running partner Adiel, at least we are out there and not at home on the couch. Yesterday, I read a quote that presented it better. It said "No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping the people on the couch."
During today's run I was thinking about this (when you run as slow as I do, you have a lot of time to think). Sure, some of the people lounging at home are lazy, but a number of them have very legitimate reasons for not running. Health issues, finances, responsibilities, child care. I was not better than they were for having raced. Nor were those across the finish line sooner, better than me (though they were better runners, for sure).
The verse "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1) came to mind. Though we were all on the same course running the same distance, the race ahead of me was different than the other 3,100 people there and it was God who decided who should do what and when.
My goal is to someday run a 5K in under 40 minutes. My official time was 44:25.3 I knew at the 2.6 mile mark that I wouldn't make my goal but then my phone app informed that my most recent split times were faster than those earlier in the race. I was running negative split times; running faster at the end of the race than I had at the beginning!
While training for this race, I was much more intentional. I followed a particular training schedule and even downloaded music that had the beats per minute that would help me achieve the pace I wanted to meet that sub 40 minute race time. Running negative splits was quite an accomplishment for one of my limited skills and the news encouraged me to put forth the effort to run the rest of the way to the finish line rather than walk.
Negative splits seem to be happening in my spiritual race, as well. My spiritual pace seems to have picked up, with God blessing me with insight and (dare I say) wisdom. Sometimes the Spirit throws so many nuggets my way I can't catch them all; it's overwhelming. Yet, none of this would have been possible had it not been for the "training days" of my past. Many of those "training sessions" were very difficult, tortuous in fact. I slogged through some very difficult situations that taxed me and darn near drained my emotional and spiritual stores. Many times I was on the verge of throwing in the towel and just living the life I wanted, running my own race on the course of my choosing rather than the one God laid out for me. To His glory and by His mercy, He didn't let me stray off course and by His grace I kept plodding on.
I believe my spiritual split times have improved because, like my recent training regimen, I'm more intentional about my relationship with God. Because I've come so close to giving up at times and was given a glimpse of how terrifying that would be, I concentrate on the center of the course, staying away from the edges when I can.
Spiritual training can take many forms - church attendance, meditation, prayer, sacrifice, etc. But performing these acts doesn't produce any spiritual stamina unless the soul is engaged. Going to church or Bible study without involvement of your heart and an active faith is like buying running shoes and jogging pants but never going for a jog. You might look like a runner but you'll never make it through a race and when the weather is bad you might not even show up, choosing to stay home on the couch.
I've made it this far because I believe God's promises; promises like "I will never leave you or forsake you.", "He will make your paths straight" and "He will grant you the desires of your heart"; there are hundreds of them. Some of those promises will be fulfilled along the way while others won't be experienced until the end of the race. But I keep my eyes opened, looking for those answers, whenever and however they appear.
I don't know if I'll maintain my current pace or what the path ahead looks like; what twists, turns or hills lie ahead. I don't even know how far along in this race I am! Fifty-three years? One hundred and three years (my grandmother made it to 102, so this is entirely possible)? Regardless, I will continue plodding along on the race God planned for me at the pace He set for me. The pace He established - sometimes a fast run, other times a slow walk - He established with the intent of my finishing. He promised.
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6